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“Guys. We’re here.”
I gave up, and hauled with immense relief on the sliding door handle, extricating myself from the muggy interior of the car. I’d practically chemically bonded with the seat it was that hot. The outside heat hit me at the same time as the welcoming, wet breeze off the lake. I breathed deep. Three hours in an old minivan with questionable air-conditioning was enough to leave anyone gasping for fresh air. The subtle blend of spilled kerosene and Nacho Cheese Doritos had nearly overcome me by the time we’d passed Barrie.
The parking lot gravel pressed up into my yellow flip flops as I took a few steps and stretched luxuriously in the sudden wealth of space. Shading my eyes from the August sun dead overhead, I looked around. The old marina hadn’t changed much since I’d been here last. The lake wasn’t really big enough for much sailing, so the canoe rental rack still held its own over by the main building. The gleaming, tarp-covered luxury motorboats were new though. And where the old pink tuck shop used to be, full of fruit by the foot and sour cherries, I could only see a vending machine and a shiny metal cooler with a sticker on the side that said, ‘Ice’.
I turned back to the dark cavern of the van. Kneeling in, I could see the prone forms of Brett and Jesse laid out on the back bench seats. I grabbed a few dangling feet and wiggled them. “Come on, boys. Rise and shine.”
Ignoring the groans and mumbled protestations I walked around to the back of the van. Kevin, true to form, already had the back gate up and was busy unloading all the crap they’d shoved in there. He was the only one I could depend on to share the six hours of driving.
“Hey Bonnie! You’re here!”
I turned at the sound of my cousin bounding down the wooden steps of Joey’s, the two-storey building which served as the general store, marina office, bait shop and local watering hole. Paint peeling and sagging slightly, the sign over the door was still the same one I remembered from when we arrived our first summer, the old Pepsi-Cola logo nearly faded completely away now. I sort of knew the feeling.
I watched Krista jog towards me and sighed. Even university living hadn’t altered her lithe, curvy figure. I could practically smell the testosterone levels rise in the van behind me as she threw her arms around me, burying my face in her ample bosom. Because yes, I’m that short. Still.
I was distracted from railing against the gods for my genetic shortcomings by a high-pitched, girly squeal from the direction of Joey’s. No…oh no. She hadn’t.
I pulled away from Krista and looked up at her accusingly. “You didn’t…”
“Whaaat?” her expression all innocence.
“You didn’t say she would be here!”
“I’m sorry, Bon…what was I supposed to do? She said she had nowhere to go…she’s had a really hard time-”
“But here. You brought her here?” I took a step back, shaking my head in disbelief. The cottage…the cottage was sacred. It was all our joyful childhood summers rolled into one shining place in the world and she had to bring that…that person here?
“I thought you were over all that, seriously Bon…I’m sorry. Honest,” Krista appealed to me, holding out her hands and bouncing on her heels. “Come on…it’ll be fine, I promise”.
I tried deep breathing. Anything to get my rage and the sick swooshing in my stomach to subside. I could hear the source of the girly squealing approaching us at speed. Leah. Tiny, gorgeous, red-head Leah Tatlock.
She was upon us now, doing her little jazz-hands wave, her stunning auburn waves styled to perfection and floating effortlessly around her slim, tanned shoulders even in the sweltering humidity. I put my hand up to smooth my own mousey-brown hair where it was tied back in the world’s most boring bun and pressed my lips together.
“Hi Bonnie,” she chirped, all her perfectly pointy little teeth gleaming at me, as she pivoted towards the guys. “Thanks so much for inviting me along!”
Me invite her? What?! She was shameless. Utterly shameless. My gut heaved a little, and my arm burned where she’d touched me.
But I was long forgotten, and her eyes were on new prizes. “Hi boys,” she purred in that breathy voice of hers, “I’m Leah…hi…”
Seriously? Was she actually giving them each a kiss on the cheek? One reading break in Paris on her daddy’s tab and she was European? Oh god. I couldn’t watch.